Quantum Leap

Yesterday morning I discovered this Discover article, via Andrew Sullivan, about the growing scientific movement in support of the ‘multiverse’ hypothesis, a.k.a. the idea that there are an infinite number of universes, each with its own laws of physics.

The Universes

The Universes

The basic idea is that if you combine the evidence for Inflationary Big Bang Theory and the principles of String Theory, you can begin to hypothesize a cosmology of endless alternate dimensions that would in fact explain a lot of data. We know that the universe is inflating, for example, and the theory goes that parts of it bud away and become independent universes. I’ve also read of a theory called ‘fecund universes,’ in which black holes are interpreted as the creation of offspring universes. I think it makes sense: the state of the universe at the moment of the Big Bang was a point of infinitely high density and infinitely small volume, a singularity, just like at the center of a black hole.

The point of this train of thought is to apply characteristics of biological evolution to cosmological evolution, and the comparison gets stronger. In string theory, reality is composed of tiny filaments, strings, whose vibrations create all of the particles and energies that we experience as the universe. God’s guitar, so to speak. Or Reality’s DNA, if you prefer. Each possible song that the string theory guitar plays produces a universe with slightly different DNA, just like genetic mutation creates new biological life forms. In any given string theory universe there are 11 dimensions, with three dimensions of space that blossom into, you know, space, while the remaining dimensions are left unseen but influence the basic laws and dynamics of the universe, like chromosomes dictate the form of a biological organism. It’s all very fractal and psychedelic and life-affirming, and it continues after the jump.

String theory has come under attack in the past few years after it was demonstrated that its basic equations could lead to thousands and thousands of different valid results, suggesting that it, much like the multiverse hypothesis, is not verfiable by experiment and thus not a theory science should bother engaging. Of course the fact that it produces so many possible outcomes is why it fits so well with the multiverse theory. Some smart person at Cambridge in the article up top also points out that if the theory can come up with testable predictions about OUR universe, verifying those would help build support for the multiverse without having to do the impossible and prove/contact/measure/observe/discover an alternate universe. Still, many scientists are troubled that multiverse theory basically puts the kibosh on ever having a complete physics, a coherent ‘theory of everything.’ It takes our already vast universe and makes it just one of many vast infinite infinities that we cannot materially experience.

On the other side of the aisle, religious thinkers are skeptical of multiverse theory as well, because it allows scientists to avoid Intelligent Design. Basically over the history of modern science, a huge number of coincidences has been piling up. As we have learned about the basic laws of physics and chemistry and moved into subatomic forces and theoretical astrophysics, it has become increasingly clear that all of this math, all this universe source code, is very precisely calibrated, very finely tuned. Slight variations in the fundamental forces of nature or the chemical composition of the universe would make life as we experience it utterly impossible. And yet here we are. The fact that the universe somehow exists in just the right way for us to exist within it, and the admission by scientists that this flies in the face of logic and probability, is called the anthropic principle, and it certainly doesn’t contradict the idea of an Intelligent Designer, to say the least. By expanding our concept of existence to include an infinite number of universes, scientists can avoid certain questions about the conspicuously human-friendly design of our universe.

Luckily for us, there are way cooler scientists who would rather explore this weird nexus of science, religion, spirituality, and mind further. The same guy who developed the Inflationary Big Bang theory and is a proponent of the multiverse is now exploring the idea that consciousness, intelligence, is a fundamental characteristic of reality, a notion I totally support investigating and the very point I was trying to make with my post from Saturday.

A science that posits a universal psyche, a quantum realm of mind that we all inhabit, knit into the fabric of the universe, would be a strong bridge between the fruits of Western modernity and the ancient insights of Eastern religions like Buddhism and Taoism that are dharmic, non-theistic, and thus less prone to hierarchical demagoguery. New understandings of consiousness could blunt the alienating, materialistic edge of applied science and bolster a view that we, us human minds, are not just coincidental byproducts of the material brain, but that the material brain is a product and manifestation of a universal force of Mind, a miscrocosmic example of a recurring feature of the universe visible in the images of brain cells, galaxies, and even internet nodes a la that previous post.

I’m gonna call it a day before I float away on all these wooly-headed, kumbaya ideas. Seriously, reading that last paragraph even I’m shocked that I’m not on shrooms right now. All I’m saying is, on a purely practical level, if we want to successfully navigate the current, dire state of the world, rife as it is with religious and ideological divisions and the exploitation of scientific knowledge for use in destructive behavior and toxic technologies, a more holistic cosmology that resolves some of the tension between materialistic science and human spirituality would come in really, really handy.


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